Beaufort Water Festival will remember its hardest-working volunteer

Each year, the Beaufort Water Festival commodore introduces that year’s volunteer directors during the opening ceremony.

In the past, the last name called has been Mikel Swinton, introduced as the festival’s longest-serving volunteer and a special assistant for a festival celebrating its 61st year.

Swinton, who died in April after a bout with cancer, will be recognized Friday in his usual place in the lineup for his more than 30 years of service to the festival.

Commodore Chris Canaday will offer the remarks during the opening ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday.

“For me, it was always his smile,” Canaday said Wednesday while volunteers worked to ready Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. “If you were having a bad day and you saw Mikel, and he was smiling, all your worries went way.”

The 10-day festival includes a headlining concert Saturday night featuring country acts Canaan Smith and LOCASH. Friday’s opening ceremony will include the Parris Island Marine Band and fireworks.

On “Motown Monday,” Water Festival volunteers will wear specially made T-shirts remembering Swinton on his favorite day of the festival. They will dance with the band Deas Guyz, as Swinton was known to do.

Swinton worked a variety of jobs during his decades with the Water Festival and never lacked for something to do. Fellow volunteers had to make sure he had had something to eat and drink and force him to take breaks in the volunteer trailer.

Volunteers took turns giving Swinton rides to the festival from his Port Royal home.

Swinton fumed if someone forgot to pick him up.

“He’d show up down here, and we’d be like, ‘How’d you get here?’ ” volunteer Tank Morris said. “I walked,” Swinton would respond.

Swinton’s Water Festival family tried to repay his dedication. They dropped in on his Port Royal house last year, raking leaves and planting shrubs.

After Swinton’s diagnosis, volunteers brought him meals and checked on him.

“It was a big loss for everybody,” Morris said.

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